Have you ever wondered how many tiles there are in the game of Scrabble? The answer is pretty easy to remember: there are exactly 100 tiles in the game of Scrabble. But do you know how many tiles there are for each letter of the alphabet? There are lots of things to know about Scrabble’s tileset that can improve your game!
Out of the 100 tiles in Scrabble, 42 are vowels, 56 are consonants, and 2 are blanks. So there are slightly more total consonants than total vowels. Here’s how that looks visually: Scrabble’s inventor, Alfred Mosher Butts, arrived at this distribution by counting the individual letters in the words of his local newspapers. That’s dedication! This means that, in general, English words contain slightly more consonants than vowels.
There are 12 Es, 9 As, 9 Is, 8 Os, and 4 Us in Scrabble. There are only 5 different vowels, compared to 21 different consonants. As a result, you’re more likely to find yourself with two, three, or more of the same vowel than you are with multiple tiles of the same consonant. Something else to notice about vowels is that they’re all worth one point apiece. It’s tougher to score a lot of points with vowels than with consonants. On the other hand, vowels like E, A, and I frequently appear in longer words. If you’re able to find a word that uses all seven of your letters (known as a “Bingo”), you’ll receive a huge bonus of 50 extra points. That often makes up for the vowels being only one point! Vowels are also critical to getting the most out of your consonants. Words like QI, ZA, XU, and JO contain one high-scoring consonant and one vowel, and you’ll need both to get those huge scores.
There are many different types of consonants in Scrabble. Some consonants are worth 1 point, just like the vowels. The L, N, R, S, and T appear in words much more frequently than their higher-scoring counterparts. Even though they’re worth only one point, you’ll be able to get a 50-point bonus for using all of your letters more often with these tiles. You’ll also combine these lower-point consonants with higher-point consonants and vowels to make heavy scoring plays. Of this group, the S is the most valuable tile by far. You can pluralize almost any noun or verb with an S. Make sure that when you use an S, it’s giving you several extra points that you wouldn’t get otherwise. The D and G are worth 2 points. These letters are still good for playing longer words thanks to suffixes like –ED and –ING, but not quite as good for that purpose as their one-point peers. The B, C, M, and P are worth 3 points. As a group, these tiles are jacks of all trades, masters of none: decent both for playing long words and for playing shorter scoring plays. The F, H, V, W, and Y are worth 4 points, and the K is worth 5 points. These higher-scoring tiles don’t appear as often in words as their lower-scoring counterparts, which is why they score slightly more points. They tend to become the focal point of your rack when you have them. Finally, there are the “power tiles.” These letters appear very infrequently in words, so there’s only one of each in Scrabble, but they get a huge boost in score to make up for it!
What about those last two tiles – the blanks? The blanks are the best tiles in the game of Scrabble. Perhaps you’re saying “how could a tile worth zero points be the best tile?” It’s because you can turn the blank into any of the other letters in the alphabet – it’s your choice. (Regardless of the letter you pick, the blank is always worth zero points.) Have you ever been frustrated that you’re one letter away from a great word? Is there a great place to use your J, Q, X, or Z, but you don’t have the right vowels to score huge? With a blank tile in hand, you never have to feel this way. If you’re a new player, make sure you spend the blank wisely. Don’t tack it onto a word that doesn’t need it. Do your best to combine it with lower-scoring tiles to play a Bingo or, if you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to use it to achieve good scores with your higher-scoring tiles like the J, Q, X, and Z.
Remember, there are slightly more consonants in Scrabble than vowels, and they range in score from 1 to 10 points. This is why, in general, it’s better to have slightly too many consonants than it is to have slightly too many vowels. In either case, your options for forming words will be restricted. But with too many consonants, you’ll often still be able to achieve decent scores. With too many vowels, all of which are worth only one point, you’ll often struggle to score very much at all. Before you make a move in Scrabble, take a look at the letters you aren’t playing (known as your “leave,” since those are the letters you leave for your next turn). Do your best to keep a balanced mixture of consonants and vowels. When in doubt, keep an extra consonant instead of an extra vowel. This reflects the natural skew of words in English to contain slightly more consonants than vowels.
All of the above advice pertains to the English language Scrabble, but other languages have slightly different sets of letters. Some languages use 102 tiles instead of 100. The number of each letter varies depending upon its frequency in that specific language. Understanding the distribution of letters in Scrabble will help you use your tiles more efficiently. Additionally, it’ll help you move from turn to turn with a good balance of vowels and consonants. Good luck!